Longtime commenter Rocket fancies himself a hockey expert. At the very least, he’s a dedicated hockey fan. He has a modest trade proposal for the Wild that he is presenting here, to you — and it does make sense! The Wild even has the cap space to do it! Rocket?
Let me begin by acknowledging that I feel this way about what I am writing. Normally I am compelled to round up the villagers with their torches and pitchforks whenever I see that a Frankenstein monster of an internet weirdo, know-it-all sports fan, and ill-bred, spelling-challenged dullard proposes a trade that is intended to save his or her favorite franchise. In almost every conceivable case, I would rather be this guy’s photographer than read these inevitably insipid and unrealistic proposals.
And yet, here we are. I cannot help but join the ranks of those I despise because the two hockey teams I follow the most are both in desperate need of a change and each has something the other could desperately use. I am writing, of course, about the Minnesota Wild and the Carolina Hurricanes.*
Ryan Lambert in his regular Monday “What We Learned” column at Puck Daddy put the problem for the Wild best:
Minnesota Wild: Mike Yeo can’t make the Wild’s goalies good. I don’t know how this is his fault. Like, okay Darcy Kuemper, a backup for the entirety of his young career, was your best option. And now people are like, “Oh no the sky is falling in the State of Hockey.” Well I mean, this is what you signed up for, yeah? They’re tied for eighth in possession numbers for the season, but their on-ice save percentage is three thousandths of a point above Edmonton’s. Hmm is it the team that’s bad or the goalies? Hmm.
The Carolina Hurricanes, on the other hand, are just bad. Edmonton Oilers bad. Hilariously bad. Forehead-slappingly bad. In desperate need of Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel, the Canes are destined to miss the playoffs for a sixth straight year.
Nonetheless, one bright spot for the Hurricanes this season has been the reemergence of goaltender Cam Ward. Injured and inconsistent for the past two seasons, many assumed that the Canes would do anything to unload the former Conn Smythe winner last summer, especially since he had two years left on a hefty contract. However, Ward has regained his form and has given the club many more chances to win then they have deserved this season. Having watched him quite a bit over the last handful of years, I can honestly say that I’ve found Ward to be underrated because he has had to shoulder a hefty burden for a generally atrocious team.
At this point, the structure of my proposal should be obvious. The Minnesota Wild need to acquire Cam Ward. He is back on his game and would greatly enhance the area of biggest need for the Wild. His cap hit of north of six million through next season, coupled with the fact that he is generally not considered one of the elites and some consider him injury-prone should keep the asking price closer to reasonable. As for the Hurricanes, they can shed salary, begin the rebuild in earnest, and give a good and loyal player a chance to win and not burn off the rest of his prime babysitting McDavid or Eichel.
I will not go so far as the rest of my mouth-breathing, internet commentariat, wanna-be general managers and suggest what the Hurricanes would want in return. I can only assume that it would involve at least one high draft pick and some young talent. Whatever the asking price, I imagine that it will make the average Wild fan at least mildly nervous about what would have to be conceded. But ask yourselves this: Is the prospect of what the team or an individual player could be in three years really worth what it could be right now if you subtracted the soft goals and lack of faith in the netminder?
For the love of Matthew David Cullen, make this happen Chuck Fletcher and Ron Francis.
*Don’t ask how I got involved in following the Canes. Just know that I am the kind of person who finds a strange and perverse joy in following a team that really shouldn’t be. I am an open and unashamed Caniac.
@MasterStrib What are the Top 3 off-season concerns that must be addressed prior to the draft? #VikingsST
— Josh (@Luckydragon84) January 6, 2015
It all starts with the future of running back Adrian Peterson. The earliest he can be reinstated from his suspension is April 15, which would be nearly a month after free agency begins. There’s so many “ifs” with Peterson to make it a fluid situation — if he completes everything the NFL has asked for him to do to be reinstated on April 15, if he still has a desire to play for the Vikings, if the Vikings still have a desire to keep him, if the two sides agree upon either keeping his currently salary or restructuring his contract. As we’ve learned throughout this entire ordeal, I’m not going to assume anything regarding Peterson leaving or staying in the offseason, but the Vikings would definitely become a better team with his services next year.
The second biggest concern is the offensive line. The Vikings will get right guard Brandon Fusco and right tackle Phil Loadholt back from injury, but they’ll need to work on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s blind side. Maybe unrestricted free agents Mike Lupati and Orlando Franklin could be immediately options to start at left guard for the Vikings, but I’d also look to bring a veteran to compete with Matt Kalil at left tackle. He needs competition at the position in training camp.
Finally, I’d look for multiple upgrades at linebacker. It’s a fairly young group with Jasper Brinkley slated to become an unrestricted free agent and the uncertainty surrounding Chad Greenway’s future with an $8.8 million cap hit in the final year of his deal. Someone like Bengals middle linebacker Rey Maualuga, who is an unrestricted free agent. It could be appealing for Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer, who has worked with Maualuga before serving as the Bengals defensive coordinator.
@MasterStrib Do you think the #Vikings will go after a marque playmaker at WR? #VikingsST
— Nick Robinson (@RobinsoNick2013) January 6, 2015
Well, there are a lot of big names at wide receiver that are expected to become free agents in the offseason. Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Jeremy Maclin and Michael Crabtree are among the top names available, but I can’t see the Vikings making a run at those guys. If they do, it would mean they’ve given up on Cordarelle Patterson. That doesn’t appear to be the case yet. They’re lacking a true No. 1 receiver, but I don’t think the Vikings need to hand out blank checks to these big names considering how Bridgewater showed the ability to make everyone around him better. They could use another veteran though, along with Greg Jennings. (I just teed up every comment to be about Larry Fitzgerald with that last sentence.)
@MasterStrib #VikingsST Typically we have 2 backup QBSs on roster. If MC stays, how do you think we should fill 3rd & any QBS you like?
— Ligeia H. (@LAHfreya23) January 6, 2015
I don’t think the Vikings will have three quarterbacks on the roster next season. Bridgewater is the starting quarterback, while Matt Cassel will be a capable backup option if Bridgewater gets hurt. The NFL expanded practice squad rosters last year, so it’s likely that the Vikings will just keep a third quarterback on the practice squad and use the extra roster spot for depth at another position.
@MasterStrib Any chance Brian Robison gets cut or takes a pay-cut? #VikingsST
— Harut (@Harut728) January 6, 2015
I’m not sure whether he’ll receive a pay cut, which could be justified, but I don’t see the Vikings parting ways with Robison. The 31-year-old had a dip in production during his first season in Zimmer’s defense that emphasized on stopping the run, but I think Robison still carries enough value on the field and in the locker room to bring him back. I do think the Vikings will need to find a better veteran backup than Corey Wootton, however. That’d be the only change I’d make at defensive end.
So here’s a new theory, born out of (another) frustrating night of Minnesota sports on Tuesday, when the Gophers men’s basketball team and the Wild played interesting games — only to ultimately lose in heartbreaking fashion.
It’s quite possibly wrong and certainly full of holes and counterexamples, but let’s work through it anyway:
Minnesota sports teams and their fans, as a collective, suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder — “a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons” and typically strikes in the winter.
As the sun goes away and the days get colder, fans and players undergo a wicked transformation in this state. Already skeptical from years past, we get even more pessimistic because of the outside gloom in December, January and February, and our teams feed off that negative energy.
We have conducted no tests to prove this. We hold zero advanced degrees in psychology. All we can present as evidence are multiple examples of either winter heartbreak (Vikings), mediocrity (many examples, many teams) or abject failure (looking at you here, mostly, Timberwolves). Also, this: The last seven Gophers football seasons that were good enough in the fall to lead to a bowl game appearance have ended with bowl game losses in December or January.
As we start to thaw out in March, optimism returns. College hockey championships on both the men’s and women’s side are won, fueled by that collective renewed optimism. The Gophers men’s and women’s basketball teams make Final Four runs. Anything seems possible with the Twins (OK, usually). The NFL draft is around the corner, and optimism about the Vikings is never more profound than during the offseason. Even if the Wolves and Wild are struggling through the ends of their seasons, there is hope that luck will change through drafting, free agency and simply a fresh start.
The only one of our four “major” pro sports teams to win a championship in the past 50 years was a summer team (Twins, twice, and please pay no mind to the fact that they won both championships in the dark, dreary Dome … the positive feeling was still strong). Our most successful pro team of the last five years was a summer team (Lynx, two WNBA titles).
So if we buy any part of this theory, what can we do about it? Some people combat Seasonal Affective Disorder with special lamps (so maybe the new Vikings stadium with the glass roof will be a good thing)?
As a collective, though, the best shot at a remedy would appear to be recognizing first that there’s a problem. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken by fans and the teams themselves.